The Dark Side of Silicon Valley: A Tech Space-Driven Drug Culture

Jul 31, 2014

By now, many of you are familiar with the Google executive that was killed on his yacht last year by a call girl who is accused of injecting him with a fatal overdose of heroin.

In the aftermath of this startling case, the San Jose Mercury News started digging into what it calls Silicon Valley’s “drug culture.”

Specifically, the newspaper found that there is an increasing propensity for those in the technology space to abuse illegal and prescription drugs to cope with the breakneck pace of work that the sector demands.

“Red Bull and coffee only gets them so far”

And to make matters worse, they allege that employers are turning a blind eye to the problem by not drug testing employees as part of their employment background screening process.

Their hypothesis is simple: They say that stimulants such as Adderall and cocaine are taken to provide the energy and concentration employees need to work for hours on end. When the job is done drugs such as heroin and Oxycodone are used to to balance the affect of the stimulants.

“There’s this workaholism in the valley, where the ability to work on crash projects at tremendous rates of speed is almost a badge of honor,” says Steve Albrecht, a San Diego consultant who teaches substance abuse awareness for Bay Area employers. “These workers stay up for days and days, and many of them gradually get into meth and coke to keep going. Red Bull and coffee only gets them so far.”

Why are employers looking the other way?

They suggest that if employers were to test for these drugs and take corrective action, they wouldn’t get the same production out of their employees as evidenced in the following quote:

Furthering the problem, many tech companies do little or no drug testing because, as Albrecht put it, “they want the results, but they don’t want to know how their employees got the results.”

If the use of illegal drugs is as rampant as alleged, there are several things that should discourage their employers. Among them:

  • Drug-related criminal activity is by far and away the most common in the United States. How long until it creeps into the workplace?
  • Drug dealers tend to do business where their clients are located, ergo if these employees are tied to their desk, where do they get the drugs?
  • That’s quite an employment brand you’re creating. Drug users tend to socialize with other drug users. They also tend to stand out as drug users by those that don’t partake.
  • What goes up, must come down. This yo-yo cycle of self-medicating can only go on for so long. Eventually, the human body shuts down.

What can employers do?

  • Incorporate drug testing into your employment background check program.
  • Consider random workforce drug testing throughout the year.
  • Offer Employee Assistance Programs and encourage employees to use the benefit.

This was originally published on the EmployeeScreen IQ blog.

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